The Hollywood Reporter unveiled that PBS and its public broadcasting brethren have written the Federal Communications Commission with a list of complaints. The headline reads, "PBS Wants the Government to Reexamine Hard Stance on Indecency."
That's funny, since we haven't seen a "hard stance on indecency" since the Hays Code a half-century ago. And that wasn't even the government. Since then, liberals have successfully thwarted almost any effort to have the federal government enact broadcast decency rules, even those codified by the Supreme Court. By the time Barack Obama became president, all thoughts of regulation were abandoned.
In 2012, midway through the Obama years, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Fox Television Stations could not be fined for a 2004 awards show broadcast in which "fleeting" profanities were hurled in an exchange between then-reality TV stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court that the FCC's attempts to enforce a fine on curse words — which were blatantly obvious to everyone watching on TV — were "unconstitutionally vague."
It's not as if PBS were ground zero for a controversy over the seven dirty words you're not supposed to say on television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., which is not to say PBS doesn't want to be. It was joined in its proposal by lawyers from National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the lobbying group America's Public Television Stations.
What irony! These noncommercial stations were supposed to show commercial broadcasters how to behave with class and decorum. But they are a sandbox for the left, and thus, they will crusade for the left with no fear of backlash from their liberal audiences.
The FCC recently issued a memo requesting input on how they might "modernize" media regulation. So the complaint demands the FCC "return to its long-standing pre-2004 policy of generally deferring to broadcasters' reasonable good faith editorial judgment in these matters" and "empower FCC staff to more quickly address complaints, including by disposing of meritless complaints that can negatively impact stations by remaining unresolved for extended periods of time." That would show "appropriate deference to the essential First Amendment values and interests."
But PBS and NPR want to make Obama's flushing of the decency rules a permanent policy. In 2014, the public broadcasting site Current.org reported that public broadcasters in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota "were among the almost 700 broadcasters whose licenses were renewed en masse earlier this month, after the FCC quietly cleared many stations nationwide of indecency charges."
These days, the FCC has moved on from profanity enforcement. On July 10, it proposed a record $120 million fine to one man who apparently made millions of unlawful "spoofed" robocalls in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act.
PBS and NPR stations are the vanguard of a new regime of "progressive" decency, funded by the taxpayers. As we noted a few weeks ago with the PBS documentary "Real Boy," the newly banned speech on public broadcasting is "misgendering" or in any way criticizing a transgender activist. Opposing their utopian agenda is today's definition of obscenity.
This is not to say that PBS has lost sight of regulatory responsibilities. When Obama came into office, it started banning something else nationwide instead: religious programming. For example, the Washington, D.C., PBS station WHUT canceled "Mass for Shut-Ins," since that broadcast from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was somehow more offensive to the taxpaying public than profanity. (It moved to a commercial channel.)
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.